Battery technology continues to revolutionize the woodworking industry. I am amazed at the incredible selection of tiny drills and drivers available to professionals and hobbyists alike. Sometimes called micro-drivers, these tools deliver performance that belies their diminutive size, and the new Festool CXS is no exception.
The CXS comes with many features found standard on larger, professional grade drills, including a multiple-setting adjustable clutch for fine tuned screw driving, and adjustable speed. The batteries charge to full strength in only 30 minutes, and after 20 minutes, the batteries reach 80 percent…nice to know at the end of a long day and only 11 more screws to affix! Extremely lightweight, it truly excels at furniture, cabinetry and ‘tune-up’ work, like adjusting drawer slides. The hinges in this door alone have 15 screws! Lugging a big drill just doesn’t make sense, when a drill like this exists. Driven by 10.8 volt Lithium Ion batteries and weighing in at less than 2 lbs. the drill finds a balance between small size and long battery life.
Speaking of balance, I love that I can set the CXS on its bottom and it remains upright. This isn’t that big of a deal, but when I need to position something (like a heavy cabinet door!), hold it in place with one hand while grabbing a drill to fasten it, this is definitely a convenient detail.
Most micro-drivers have the batteries in the handle, but Festool turns this paradigm on it‘s head by placing the battery in front of the knuckles. This not only allows it to stand upright, but aids in anatomical comfort for full day use.
A TYPICAL GRIP
I have big hands. Coffee mugs that only let me fit in one finger make me really grumpy. Initially, I thought the closed pistol grip was way too small, but after wrestling around a bit with the CXS, I realized that the trigger is meant to be pushed with the middle finger, and the index finger is not meant to wrap around the handle. The net effect of this is the back of the drill fits snug between the thumb and index finger, providing more efficient driving mechanics. Once I taught myself how to hold the drill, I was very comfortable with the grip and understood with small drills like this, every little bit of extra power counts.
BIT STORAGELots of drills come with on-board bit storage, but few do it as well as the CXS. On the outside face of the battery slot are two 2″ long smooth slots backed by magnets. The longer slot lets you store driving bits and drill bits, which is really nice considering almost every properly driven screw needs a pilot hole to match. The insides of the slots are ramped, so to remove a bit, all I have to do is slide it up or down and it releases form the magnetic pull.
UNIQUE CHUCK SYSTEM
All of the drills in the Festool family come with the FastFix interchangeable Chuck System, making this small drill more versatile than others. To swap from one chuck to another, the operation is similar to an air hose fitting, with one-handed operation. FastFix currently offers six driving options: traditional keyless chuck, right angle, quick-hex, offset, depth stop, and for the tightest situations, none at all. The CXS Drill Set comes with the first three. The traditional keyless chuck is similar to those found on other drills. The others, however, are unique to this tool. Here’s a quick look at the others in the set.
I have used every trick in the book when drilling in tight spaces, and this attachment beats them all by far. It excels in repair and tune-up work, where the space is not only tight, but there is ‘stuff’ too. Here, I am able to tighten the countertop to the cabinet. While the counter was originally attached with the drawer slides removed, I am able to sneak the Festool right angle attachment right up inside the cabinet and tighten the counter back down.
X-TRA SHORT Every inch counts when attaching drawer slides in small drawer openings. The length of the top of the drill is only 6-1/4″ long. I have a magnetic attachment in the drill in this photo, but I could lose that too and use only the bit tip to further shorten the drill. The drill is short in both length and height, a boon for those who wriggle into in cramped spaces.
I always viewed lights on drills to be sort of silly, eating up valuable battery power. Especially with big 18V monsters that couldn’t fit into a small space anyways, they’re one of those things that just made the feature list look longer. Not so with the CXS, which is at home in small, tight spaces where light is necessary. Of course, lighting technology has come a long way, too, and LED’s draw a fraction of the power of older lights. The light illuminates up to a foot away. The one downside to an onboard light is that it casts a significant shadow, which in some cases is actually detrimental. A small grievance, one that can easily be fixed with a piece of painters tape over the light.
Lots of drills come with a belt hook, but few are light enough for me to actually want to hang them on my pocket. The drill hangs comfortably at an angle, barely deflecting the fabric of my pants. The drill weighs less than 2lbs. after all! The pocket hook is removable, and can be swapped from one side to the other.
The CXS Drill set follows in the tradition of Festool products. Well made and engineered, and generally, more expensive than other ‘comparable’ products on the market. I use quotations because with that extra cost comes quality and thoughtful design that translates to excellent performance. This drill is a dream for anyone who sets cabinet doors or installs knobs for a living. I have done my share of this type of work, and a big drill really takes its toll over a day or week of micro-adjusting hinges and magnetic clasps. Having said this, the CXS certainly has limitations; I tried to drive 2-1/2″, #10 screws into pine ‘studs’ and the torque wasn’t enough to suck the heads of these big screws tight. In perspective, this was an overly ambitious task for any drill with 10.8v batteries. I was certainly able to drive 2″ drywall screw tightly with a pilot hole with no problem… a more suitable test for this type of drill. I really liked the FastFix driver system; while I don’t know exactly what ‘tight’ situations I will run into in the future, I know the CXS will be my best bet for fast drilling and fastening. Sure the Festool is pricey… but with the package you get a chuck system that solves every compact drilling problem I have encountered, making this drill worth every penny.
Photos By Author
Festool CXS Cordless Drill $275.00 *comes with 2 Batteries, Charging Station, Keyless Drive, Right Angle Drive, and Hex-Head Drive